Like many artistic endeavors, the show Life in Motion seeks to capture the depth of human experience. But this show has a challenge that most do not: It’s performed entirely by marionettes. Yet somehow during the performance, strings disappear and realism takes hold to convey life’s moment’s with unique characters and powerful music. The secret to creating this magic is a man in black who’s on stage but appears only in shadow: puppeteer Joseph Cashore. His recent sold-out performance at Davidson College is a clear testament to the talent he displays on stage.
Cashore employs two main elements in his work: first, his mastery of puppetry and second, his love of music. Classical music figures prominently in the show, as vignettes of everyday moments are paired with music to match. The second movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D plays while a mother stares wonderingly into the eyes of her infant. Irish balladThe Foggy Dew accompanies an elderly woman mourning at the grave of a loved one. The visuals and the music combine to create an experience makes poetry of puppetry.
“I’m listening for music that both expresses the content of the piece emotionally and also has in it the right changes so that I can choreograph the movements of the marionette to the changes in the music,” said Cashore. “It becomes very powerful.”
Cashore’s talents have earned him top honors, including a Henson Foundation Grant and the UNIMA Citation of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed on an American puppeteer. In addition to his talent in constructing the marionettes and creating these shows, Cashore’s use of music is a testament to the power of music as an emotive force.
“I am sensitive to music’s amazing power to open the listener to different ways of feeling and being,” said Cashore. “To me, it’s like magic, [but] better than magic because there is no deception.”
Perhaps magic and mystery are at the very core of Cashore’s work. Cashore explains: “The right music speaks directly to the deepest part of the psyche. When I’m listening to music, if I close my eyes, there is nothing else. The world dissolves and there is just the music. The experience can be profoundly transforming. What is it about sound that can do this? I don’t know — to me it’s a mystery.”
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The Cashore Marionettes came to Davidson College as a part of the Artist Series. To learn more about Life in Motion and Joseph Cashore, please visit the Cashore Marionettes website and view vidoes of Cashore’s shows.